THE Kiama Knights are into their third straight Group Seven grand final after downing the Shellharbour Sharks 18-10 in Sunday's preliminary final at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
It took just 90 seconds for the Knights to open the day's scoring, when Ethan Ford carried two across the line, following a spread to the left edge.
Cam Vazzoler failed to convert from the western touchline and it was 4-nil.
The reigning premiers hit back back four minutes later when five-eighth Sam Clune hit Matt Coltman with a flat ball, before the latter powered over.
Matt Carroll missed the conversion to the left and it was 4-all after eight minutes.
Abed Atallah's men made it two tries in a row when Jayme McElhone touched down on the eastern sideline, following an overlap crated by quick hands.
Carroll landed the extras from the sideline and it was 10-4 after 13 minutes.
#Kiama#Knights coach Matt Clarke breaks down his side’s 18-10 #GroupSeven preliminary final win against #Shellharbour - securing the club its third straight grand final appearance. They’ll face #Jamberoo in next Sunday’s #Group7 decider. @CountryRL@SCRegister@mercury_sportspic.twitter.com/9pF1yPp7g1— Courtney Rhys Ward (@CortRhysWard) September 8, 2019
A Kieran Poole break through the middle set-up the Knights' second try, in the 29th minute.
After Kiran Tranter was penalised for a ruck infringement, Kiama created an overlap to the right, following a sharp offload by Toby Nobes, which saw Cal Thistlethwaite score.
Vazzoler missed his second straight conversion and it was 10-8.
In the final few minutes before half-time, both sides came close to scoring their respective third tries but we held up on both occasions.
And just when it appeared the Sharks would hold a two-point lead, the Knights produced some magic from within their own half.
Off a scrum on their own 40m line, Thistlethwaite kicked through for Matt Morris, who beat Tam Ulukita to the ball before the winger stepped inside Clune to score.
Vazzoler missed the kick and Kiama led 12-10 at the break.
The Knights extended their lead in the 55th minute following yet another break by Tom Angel.
Off the ensuing set, Dylan Morris caught the markers napping and dived over from close range.
#Shellharbour#Sharks coach Abed Atallah discusses his side’s 18-10 loss to the #Kiama#Knights in the #GroupSeven preliminary final at Cec Glenholmes Oval - ending their premiership defence. #rugbyleague#Group7@CountryRL@SCRegister@mercury_sportspic.twitter.com/uANFwIsqCI— Courtney Rhys Ward (@CortRhysWard) September 8, 2019
Vazzoler made it four straight misses and it was 16-10.
With 16 to play, Vazzoler landed his first kick of the afternoon, to stretch Kiama's lead to eight.
With seven to play, the Knights held the Sharks up on two separate occasions - firstly Max Wolfson and then Matt Coltman - to maintain their eight-point lead.
This defensive effort proved pivotal as the Knights held on for a memorable 18-10 win, booking them a spot in the big dance against Jamberoo.
In the eight-point win, Luke Chalker - who played 80 minutes in the middle, Tom Angel, Vazzoler and Poole were fantastic while Sam Clune, Wolfson, Coltman and McElhone did all they could for Sharks, who were bundled out in straight set after falling to Jamberoo the week before.
Earlier in the day, Gerringong defeated Kiama 30-12 in reserve grade, Albion Park-Oak Flats smashed Berry-Shoalhaven Heads 32-6 in under 18s, Sussex Inlet edged Wreck Bay 18-10 in third grade, Jamberoo thumped Stingrays 32-6 in WLT1 and Jamberoo ousted Warilla-Lake South 13-4 in WLT2.